Everyday Changemakers: Paul and Chloe, Sandside Community Garden

Listen to 1000 Better Stories on your favourite podcast app or here.

Our Story Weaver, Kaska Hempel, talks to Paul and Chloe about making dreams come true and turning the forgotten patch of land into a safe place for local adults and kids to enjoy.

The story is the last one in the five-part Dumfries series of Everyday Changemakers. 



Kaska: Hello, it’s Kaska, your Story Weaver. 

For our final interview in the Dumfries-based Everyday Changemaker series we head to Sandside Community Garden, affectionately known as Apache Land. I spotted it on Google maps while planning my trip – it was sitting at the edge of the suburb, overlooking the riverside meadows below.

Two key members of the garden team, Paul and his daughter Chloe very kindly agreed to meet up early on Monday morning. I enjoyed the morning stroll across town, stopping on the luxurious modern footbridge to admire the calm waters of Nith below, listening to the morning chatter of birds against the distant murmur of busy commuter traffic. After the weekend’s rains it was sunny and crisp. The low light was catching the grey of hoarfrost on the docks among the long grass on the slope leading up to the garden gate, adding a touch of magic to the scene. 

My hosts were already on site, and they welcomed me to the large container shed at the back of the garden plot, where we could make ourselves comfortable, and grab a cup of tea. 

I asked them to introduce themselves and the space. Paul’s had health issues which mean that he has trouble speaking clearly, so Chloe’s helped with the interview. You may also want to check out the transcript linked in the episode description.


Kaska: Hello. It’s a beautiful day. Cold, but.

Chloe: Hello.

Kaska: Do you need a hand with anything?

Chloe: No, you’re alright. Let’s have a seat.

Kaska: Do you have to walk far?

Paul: No.

Kaska: Just around the corner?

Chloe: Just five minutes.

Kaska: Oh, that’s, that’s nice to have somewhere nearby.

Paul: Aye.

I’m Paul McGregor. Paul McGregor, Chairperson of the Sandside Community Garden project

Chloe: I’m Chloe McGregor and I’m a community member.

Kaska: Why Apache Land?

Chloe: So the Apache Land came from, back in the day, where like, that was the name that came to mind. Cause like, it’s a patch, and it’s a land. a patch of land. That’s the way I look at it anyway.

Paul: It’s a Community Garden, Community Space. Years ago, when I went to a conference up North, with CLD. Community development. I’ve seen people, get a space, and grow stuff for the community. I thought, good idea. This space was available, available at the time. I asked the council, if it was, available, and then, we’ll talk to the community, they said yes.

Chloe: So we had a Big Lunch up in the Goldie Park, up the top, um, where we, organised a big, kind of fun day, a picnic in the park where everybody came together, and they bought a piece of food from their house, or like a, a recipe they wanted to bring to, to share with everybody in the park.

Um, we had like lots of different people, we had like the fire brigade, we had the blood bikes, we had the community choir, all different kind of things, we had the NHS, lots of different people coming together, um, and it was a big, massive picnic in the park.

It was the start of it. We asked the kids what they wanted to see in the area, and they said, oh, we’d love to, like, have a space where we can just come along and, like, interact and things like that. And this space was, a mess when we took over it. So, it has just been, people dumping, like, old beds and mattresses, things like that.

So, we organised a big, massive clean up.

Kaska: It’s a nice thing to do together, isn’t it?

Paul: Yeah, yeah. Very good.

Kaska: And now, it’s thriving, it’s amazing.

Paul: Yeah. Slowly. Getting there, slowly.

Kaska: Yeah. it’s nice and tidy and, and it’s got lots of, you know, places to sit down. So is there favourite spots in the garden that you’ve got?

Paul: Yeah, raised beds. We grow food, grow food this whole time, share with the community. We share, everything we grow we share it out to the community.

Chloe: Mine will be, like, when it’s actually done up. It’s, like, the kids area. Because that’s my initial plan was to do a kids area for the kids to come along and, like, have a play, and, like, we’ll go and put play equipment in, like, all natural play equipment, like, made out of wood and things like that. So once it’s all done up, that’ll be my favourite part.

We’ve had a lot of kids say to us, like, when are we getting this area? So, our main focus this year is getting the kids play area up and running. Like, we’re looking at, like, getting costs and things like that. So we’re looking at getting the funding in place if we get that, and then that’s what our next task will be.

Kaska: Food and play. What’s not to like? I mean, you already said how this came about. What motivated you to actually make a difference or get involved in that kind of work?

Paul: I think that I’m a community person, so why not? Big space, sitting here, empty, can be used. I thought, let’s grow food. Because even before that, there was challenges. Grow food, feed food. Grow, interact with other people.

Kaska: Is there a reason why you were so keen on growing food?

Chloe: To be honest, I think it was, like, more get the community together and, like, bring more people in and, like, people are like, sitting there, like, relying on food banks and things like that.

So we thought, will maybe, like, do I don’t know how to describe it really. Like, to get them to come in and, like, accept help. We know there’s people out there that are really struggling, on like, day to day basis, like, or that can’t afford to, like, get a proper meal. So like, if we had, like, grew loads of vegetables, then maybe we could make a soup or something, and that would last them for a while. At least they’ve got something warm, in our actual meal, that would actually fill them.

Kaska: And you said that you’re really keen on getting a kids play area. Is there a reason for that?

Chloe: There’s a lot of kids these days that are, like, just running straight across the road. We don’t want that to happen. If they can come into this space, it’s more secure, it’s an open space.

Their mums and dads or their granny or parents or guardians can come down. They can lend a hand, while the kids play in the play area. And like, that’s a win-win situation then, because the kids have got enough place to play, and we’re getting more volunteers involved.

Kaska: When I say community garden, what’s the first thing that comes to your mind, like a phrase or a word?

Paul: People.

Chloe: People as well really.

Kaska: What do you think has been the biggest challenge, for your community group, that you’ve overcome with setting this up, or with keeping it going?

Paul: Getting people involved. Getting people involved. Volunteers.

Chloe: Volunteers is a big thing right now. We’re only running, like, seven to eight volunteers in a minute, but we are, like, advertising every single day, to try and get more people involved. We’re in contact with the third sector, we’re in contact with different community groups as well.

Paul: NHS.

Chloe: NHS. All the people round about us, um, so our main task is to get more people involved, otherwise, like, we won’t be able to keep going. Even if people come down and have a look and say, lend a hand for an hour a day, we’re grateful for that because we’ve all got our own lives as well. We are a volunteer-based group.

We’re not getting paid for it. We’re doing it out of our own kind of a heart. So that more people become involved is what we’re wanting to get the garden thriving to where we want it to be.

Kaska: Is there, um, a way that you recruited volunteers that worked better than others?

Chloe: We had a lot of people who were interested when we’ve done Big Lunch in the big park.

Paul: I think at the start, I think at the start it was quite focused we had a girl who was quite focused. She was very arty.

Chloe: We had a couple of volunteers involved in the very beginning. When, we had, like, people that are really involved in art. They loved doing art. So, we’ve done, like, a couple of workshops with the kids. Doing, like, art workshops with them. Like, they get to decorate what they want.

There’s planters up the top. The kids done the two, this side. One of the people that loves doing art, she done the one up beside the gates. And then they decided to paint all the tyres different colours. Brighten the place up. The kids actually loved that. So we’re looking to do, like, more workshops with the kids cause then the parents and guardians can come down and see what we’re actually about.

Cause we want more people involved, but they won’t come unless there’s something happening.

Kaska: So events and something to do with the kids would be a thing to do. That’s really good tip, actually.

Um, is there anything that inspires you? Um, Or a person that inspires you

Paul: Keep going, I say to myself, keep going. That’s when I was fit and well. Now I’m not as fit, but I still keep going. Got a passion for it. Forgotten land we’ve got. A passion and forgotten land.

Kaska: Sheila Campbell, she’s one of the NHS Community Development. She’s really helped us a lot. So she’s helped us with a lot of our Ideas doing like workshops with us, like team training, things like that. So she’s really helped us. So she’s inspiration.

Paul: And yeah, our local councillor Andy Ferguson.

Chloe: He helped us get the water in he helped us get the electricity in. A lot of the community councillors have helped us a lot actually. Like Raymond Bell, he’s helped us as well.

Kaska: Good to have support.

Paul: Work with your local councillors very much. As I say, work with local agencies. Work with local agencies. It’s very important. Find out who’s out there. Work with them. Local businesses. Local businesses. You can do stuff.

Kaska: Yeah, networking.

Paul: Ah, yeah. Yeah, yeah.

Kaska: Um, I keep hearing that from people. Um, when you think about this community garden, what’s the taste that comes to your mind?

Paul: Potatoes, potatoes. Haha.

Chloe: Because that’s our main vegetable to grow because we put two beds full of potatoes in each year. So, like, we always get loads of potatoes and we’re always left with loads behind so we just take them all home and like just make loads of soup,

Kaska: Is there a thing that you’re most proud of? And what is it?

Paul: Yeah, the space. The space. How it’s been developed over the years.

Chloe: First started off with, compared to now, this we had practically nothing.

Kaska: I always ask everybody to sort of take a trip into the future look at the place right now and then close your eyes and try to imagine what it would be like in 10 years time. And I would like you to bring one memory back and share with us.

Chloe: It’ll all be done hopefully. So like the main parts, like the kids play area, our sensory garden, it’ll hopefully all be up and running by then. And then we can pay people. Hopefully it won’t take us ten years,

Kaska: Can you think of a sound from that future?

Chloe: Birds chirping, like. Kids playing in the play area. Running about, laughing, giggling. Adults coming along, having chat hour. That kind of thing.

Kaska: Great. Sounds like a fun place to be.

Paul: Yeah. It’ll get here.

Kaska: Thank you so much. Thank you for sharing, um, your stories. I would like to maybe take a photo, is that okay?

Of the two of you somewhere outside.


Kaska: While we were looking for a perfect spot for our photo, Chloe and Paul showed me around the garden.

Kaska: Oh, I can see tatties! Aye brick raised beds. Is that the first part of the garden that was developed?

Paul: Yeah.

Kaska: Yeah.

Paul: This was the first year. This was the first year I started.

Kaska: Can you tell me about the hill?

Chloe: It is going to be a performance area, a high seating area, so where people can come in during the summer or whenever and like put a performance on, like when we’re having events. That’s where they’ll be decorated, up there.

Kaska: Yeah, and in front that’s your picnic lawn, isn’t it?

Paul: Yeah.

Kaska: Yeah. I like the layout of this.

Paul: Barbeque, picnics, music.

Kaska: That’s what will bring people. Yeah. So who’s the gardener. How did you know how to grow things?

Chloe: We don’t. We don’t. We just ask for things and, like, just Google things and, like, hope for the best really. It’s all like, learn as you go. Learn as you go really.

We’ve got a guy called Gilbert, he loves growing things, it was him that made all, like, the yellow signs around about the garden, like, naming what they are and things like that.

Paul: The coffee, the coffee run.

Chloe: He goes round all the community cafes in Dumfries and he collects coffee grounds. Oh wow. So, on a Tuesday before he comes to the garden, he goes to YMCA, he goes to is it Green’s?

Paul: Mrs. Green’s. And Snaq

Chloe: And Snaq. Um, and collects all the coffee grounds, and he brings them to the garden. He puts them in one specific, um, compost bin.

Kaska: He’s composting them,

Chloe: Yeah, yeah. Yeah.

Kaska: Okay, so that should improve the soil.

Paul: Yeah.

Kaska: Oh, that’s an interesting project. Is there anything that you grew that you were surprised,

Paul: Chloe, I grew Chloe.

Kaska: Hahaha.

Chloe: Our sunflowers I think, because we weren’t sure if they were going to grow this year, but they’ve actually grown pretty well.

Paul: Tomatoes.

Chloe: Tomatoes as well. Our tomatoes that we’ve got in the polytunnel, because obviously the soil’s not been very great. But, like, we’ve improvised and we’ve learnt from our mistakes to get the soil better for next year and that’s what we can do is, like, learn from our mistakes and move on really.


I was impressed with the way this small group of volunteers transformed the derelict council caravan site, or – as Paul calls it – this forgotten land, into a safe, colourful and productive space for their community in just 8 years. With very, very few resources beyond the power of will and local networks at their disposal. I truly hope they manage to fulfil their ambitions of bringing more people in to have fun, connect and support each other. 

As Paul wheeled with me back into town, over the calm waters of Nith, my mind wandered to the stormy drama that’d unfolded near the town where I live in the North East over the weekend. Things were settled now and the trains started working again so thankfully I could get back home (after extending my stay). But many people in the area – especially in Brechin, were still dealing with the aftermath of the deluge.

Climate change related weather extremes have not stopped coming since last October. In fact, the last 10 months has given us an unbroken and troubling streak of highest recorded land temperatures on Earth. And remember 1.5 C? The benchmark set as a target in the international Paris climate agreement to keep our planet from dangerously overheating? Average global temperatures over the past 12 months have now breached, reaching 1.58C above pre-industrial levels.

Just over the last week we’ve had news of British and Scottish farmers not being able to plant their crops, which means food will be even more expensive this year. France, Portugal and Spain have been very hot which brings a worry about life-threatening summer heatwaves if this trend continues… Great Barrier reef in Australia is bleaching again because the oceans have been so hot – if it collapses that will threaten much of sea-life and fish stocks there.

It is reported that scientists are a bit worried that we may be entering an uncharted and dangerous territory with climate. Which absolutely terrifies me.

The climate emergency is definitely here – on OUR doorstep. Are we ready? Have we done enough in Scotland to be able to adapt? What do we need to do to get our communities ready? They’re all big questions and I don’t know the answers. All I know is that the type of work that I’ve seen being done by community groups in Dumfries and elsewhere is the essential first step to building the resilience required to do both – stop the worst of the climate change from happening and to adapt to its effects in places where we live and love.

If you’d like to see what the Scottish government is planning to do about it over the next 5 years and to comment on the plans, have a look at the draft Scottish National Adaptation Plan now. It is open for public consultation until the 24th of April. I will link the Adaptation Scotland article about it in the show notes. While you are on their website you can also check out adaptation planning resources they have available for communities.

So that’s a wrap for EC stories from Dumfries. But there are more community climate action stories for you in the pipeline, so check in again soon.


Sandside Community Garden facebook page https://www.facebook.com/sandsidegarden

Gilbert’s coffee grounds composting project on Cycling Dumfries website

Scottish Government’s Adaptation Plan consultation, closes on 24th of April https://www.adaptationscotland.org.uk/news-events/stories/scottish-national-adaptation-plan-public-consultation

Adaptation Scotland https://www.adaptationscotland.org.uk

Tenth consecutive monthly heat record alarms and confounds climate scientists, Jonathan Watts, The Guardian, 9 Apr, 2024 https://www.theguardian.com/global/2024/apr/09/tenth-consecutive-monthly-heat-record-alarms-confounds-climate-scientists?CMP=fb_gu&utm_medium=Social&utm_source=Facebook&fbclid=IwAR0Afp1lIWMzhzDZIChyxx0m-ji3_rgn-MtISK2lPJj0nTmB0MJ1i3qOZ6A#Echobox=1712642938